Volume 1 of Black Bolt’s solo series, subtitled Hard Time, is out. Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward fulfilled the promise of the first issue (which I looked at previously) and more. Ward says a lot about who gets put in prison and why, while not ignoring the kickass fights and teleporting dogs we all crave.
Who is Black Bolt? Why should I care?
It’s funny, despite the fact that Marvel’s been pushing them for the past few years, AND there was a TV show (which wasn’t great) out this year, AND they are an original creation of Jack Kirby, the Inhumans still feel like a group people don’t know much about. I think it’s because Terrigenesis is being used in place of “I hit puberty and got my mutant powers” for how to power up new teen heroes. Everybody’s familiar with a few Inhumans, like Ms. Marvel or Moon Girl, but mostly ignore the Royal Family.
Black Bolt, the silent king of the Inhumans, can speak and shatter mountains. His voice is a weapon so powerful that he had to be trained from birth to stay perfectly silent (he’s great at parties). Both his status as king and his necessary silence keep him at arm’s length from most people beyond his immediate family. This has left Blackagar Boltagon (yeah, that’s his name) as a bit of a blank slate, compared to other heroes who have been around this long.
Doing Hard Time
This series sees Bolt trapped in a crazy prison, his brother Maximus the Mad managing to switch places with him. He hears a voice, a demand, “NAME YOUR CRIMES! REPENT YOUR CRIMES!” He dies, is reborn, and eventually frees himself. Black Bolt meets his captor and speaks…but nothing happens. He dies again, and that’s when thing really start. The other prisoners convince him to work with them on an escape, and it’s a great cast of characters. The most notable is long-time henchman Carl “Crusher” Creel. He serves as a sharp contrast to the noble, remote Black Bolt. My favorite addition to the Marvel universe might be Raava the Unskrulled, a Skrull space pirate who never learned to shapeshift, because she wants her enemies to die seeing her true face. The book is a great balance between philosophical discussions and butt kicking.
Christian Ward’s art is gorgeous, from the inky depths of space to bright shocks of color when Black Bolt uses his power, it looks AMAZING. This might be my favorite comic art since I first encountered David Aja’s work on Hawkguy. Matt Fraction is actually where I first learned of Ward’s art, in their fever-dream gender-swapped Odyssey comic ODY-C. I am so glad he’s getting mainstream work, and I sure hope it continues.
If you’re not afraid to think about what we do to criminals and poor people in our world in between all the smashing and crushing, check out Black Bolt: Hard Time.